Gawker media officially filed for bankruptcy this week following its loss of a $140 million lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan, bankrolled by PayPal founder Peter Thiel.
A 2007 article published by Gawker’s Valleywag blog was headlined, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” drove Mr. Thiel to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. He funded a team of lawyers to find and help “victims” of the company’s coverage mount cases against Gawker.
But the revelation this week that Mr. Thiel was covertly backing Mr. Bollea’s case as well as others has raised a series of new questions about the First Amendment as well as about the role of big money in the court system — specifically the emerging field of litigation finance, in which third parties like hedge funds and investment firms pay for other people’s lawsuits.
The piece didn’t “out” Thiel, as so many have written; Owen Thomas, the writer of the piece and now the business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, says Thiel was open about his sexuality with friends and colleagues. The point of the piece, rather, was to call out the hypocrisy of other venture capitalists, who supposedly prize non-conformity but would rather keep talk of sexual difference hush-hush. It’s a perfect crystallization of Gawker’s editorial posture.